Non-governmental organizations are sounding the alarm after members of a remote tribe in the Amazon contracted measles – a disease that could be potentially devastating to the community.
Around 23 members of the Yanomami tribe have visited a hospital in Brazil, with at least one confirmed measles case as of June 28, according to the Venezuelan NGO Wataniba.
However, many Yanomami don’t have access to medical care.
Individuals from isolated communities are particularly vulnerable to diseases, like measles, to which they have little immunity, according to Survival International, an NGO that works with isolated indigenous groups. “When tribal people experience common diseases like measles or flu which they’ve never known before many of them die, and whole populations can be wiped out,” said director Stephen Corry in a statement on Survival’s website.
“These tribes are the most vulnerable peoples on the planet. Urgent medical care is the only thing standing between these communities and utter devastation.”
Some communities of the Yanomami tribe, who live along the border between Brazil and Venezuela, are among the most isolated groups in the world, according to Survival. The group estimates that there are around 35,000 Yanomami in the region. Some of those might still be uncontacted by the outside world.
“The devastating outbreak has the potential to kill hundreds of tribespeople unless emergency action is taken,” wrote Survival on its website.
Brazil has reported 995 measles cases in the Amazonas and Roraima states, according to a June 8 update from the Pan-American Health Organization. An outbreak is also ongoing in Venezuela.
Brazil’s measles outbreak began in March after cases were imported from neighbouring Venezuela, where health services have largely collapsed. Since then, 271 cases of the disease have been confirmed in Manaus.
Hardships in Venezuela have sent more than 1 million people fleeing to neighbouring countries, sometimes bringing disease with them.
— With files from the Associated Press